By Tom Marquardt And Patrick Darr
We have probably written 30 columns about what wine goes best with a classic Thanksgiving dinner of turkey, potatoes, stuffing and pumpkin pie. The advice has always been the same: pour what you like because it won’t make a difference.
So, there you have it.
Turkey is a fairly neutral meat that won’t overwhelm a wine like, say, lamb would if the wine is not carefully chosen. A neutral meat opens the door to red and white, both of which have a place at our table. Giving your guests a choice makes the culinary occasion more fun and adventurous.
Side dishes – cranberries, sweet potatoes and dessert – could throw off some wines, but don’t waste time dwelling on it. You have more to worry about than pairing the wines.
For reds, we like Beaujolais because it’s relatively simple and fruity. Don’t bother with just “Beaujolais,” the simplest of wines from this French region. Buy “Beaujolais village” or one of the crus that carry a village name, such as Morgon or Moulin-a-Vent. These wines are inexpensive, which is good if you’re serving a large gathering.
We also like pinot noir, syrah and grenache.
For whites, we like chardonnay because it’s frequent creaminess matches well gravy and turkey. Alternatives include pinot grigio, riesling and albarino.
Next week we’ll focus on chardonnay. This week, here are some alternatives:
Chateau Ste Michelle Eroica Riesling 2022 ($22). This partnership with German winemaker Dr. Ernst Loosen is a perfect match to the classic Thanksgiving dinner. Off-dry, it will complement turkey and side dishes equally. White peach and citrus notes abound.
Liquid Light Chardonnay 2022 ($11-15). From Washington state, this delightful and inexpensive chardonnay has a smooth mouthfeel without a lot of acidity. Best of all, it has low alcohol and only 95 calories per 5-oz glass. If you are concerned about your guests’ alcohol consumption, this may be a good call.
Andante Vineyards Willamette Valley Aligote 2021 ($35). This is a very nice white alternative to chardonnay. From the Van Duzer AVA, known for its cooling winds, it is made entirely from aligote grapes – unusual in this neck of the woods. It has easy-to-drink flavors of white peach and mandarin with a nice hint of spice.
Trenel Beaujolais Cuvee Rochebonne 2021 ($21). Youthful cherry and raspberry notes with a white pepper finish and soft texture. Made from Gamay grapes.
Frank Family Vineyards Napa Valley Zinfandel 2021 ($45). Always a winner in our circle of friends, this zinfandel has the ripe fruit character we love in the grape. Eminently drinkable and versatile enough to match tomato-based or sweet dishes, it is balanced, fruity and delicious. Although its DNA has been traced to other varieties in Europe, zinfandel is an American grape – perfect to match an American holiday.
Sonoma-Cutrer Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2022 ($25). This is an excellent bargain. Lots of rich and creamy texture with elements of apple, spice and oak.
Kirkton Estate Hunter Valley “The Williams” Semillon 2022 ($25). This impressive Australian producer makes value-oriented red and white wines from old vines, but we enjoyed this exceptional Semillon – a versatile wine that would pair well with an elegant seafood or turkey dinner. Stone fruit notes with nice minerality.
Fiddlehead Cellars Oldsville Pinot Noir 2016 ($60). Winemaker Kathy Joseph pays homage to this McMinnville vineyard where she produced wines for 15 vintages before repositioning to her winery in California. Lavender aromas with red fruit and spice flavors. Joseph gives two years of bottle age before releasing it, saying the “youthful fruit evolves into spicier notes, and the tannins and oak integrate to reveal great suppleness.” While many Oregon pinot noirs are simply too concentrated and rich to serve alongside a traditional turkey meal, the softness of this wine will complement the dinner well.
Inman Endless Crush Rosé 2022 ($40). Rosé adds great color to the table, it’s fun and it is versatile with food. Kathleen Inman makes one of the best rosés in California and Endless Crush deserves the price. Strawberry and watermelon notes.
Kramer Vineyards Müller-Thurgau 2021 ($20). The producer planted Müller-Thurgau and riesling grapes in the 1980s in Oregon’s Yamill-Carlton AVA. This dry version has guava and lychee flavors and a dash of spice.
Convival Gamay Noir & Pinot Noir 2022 ($25). This blend from Oregon has bright and youthful red fruit flavors, perfect with cranberry sauce and turkey.
Early Mountain Petit Manseng ($45). If you really want to recognize the history of Thanksgiving, a good choice would be a wine from Virginia. Thomas Jefferson, an avid wine collector, was born in Virginia and lived much of his life at Monticello. This relatively unusual grape variety shows off richness and texture. Another choice from this producer is the merlot-petit verdot blend Eluvium, a bit pricey at $90 but special.
Nicolas & Jay L’Ensemble Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2021 ($70). A cuvee of the most expressive barrels from eight vineyards, this pinot noir combines the best Oregon has to offer. Youthful, exuberant, bright fruit akin to cherries and cranberries. The silky texture makes it easy to drink. Burgundian in style.
Kirkland Casa Santos Lima Tinto Rouge Reserva 2017 ($15). From Portugal, this gem with bottle age provides a softly textured and energized wine with medium body and ripe red fruit flavors. It is a blend of touriga nacional, syrah, tinto roriz and alicante bouchet. If you can find one with less bottle age, it will probably be even better.
Tenuta Sant’Antonio Nanfre Valpolicella DOC 2021 ($15). Four brothers put family love into this simple, versatile blend of corvina and rondinella. Aged in stainless steel, it keeps the freshness.
Ruffino Ducale Oro Chianti Classico Riserva 2018 ($40). One of our perennial favorites, this is a blend of sangiovese with merlot and colorino making up 20 percent of the wine. Produced only in great vintages since 1947, it draws grapes from the producer’s Gretole estate. Generous violet, cherry and cocoa aromas with plum and cherry flavors.